Do you suffer from an injury or illness that prevents you from working like you did before or this injury keeps you from adjusting to a new line of work?
Are you worried about your eligibility of qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits? If so, chances are you are not alone.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) reports that:
- 1-in-4 20-year-old workers in the U.S. will become disabled before reaching retirement age.
- 1-in-5 Americans (56 million) live with some form of disability.
- 1-in-10 Americans (38 million) suffer from a severe disability.
Fortunately, you may be eligible to receive Social Security disability (SSD) benefits. These benefits may represent only a portion of the income you previously earned. However, they can still play a major role in helping you and your family to meet your monthly expenses.
Click here to See our infographic “Top 5 Things You Need to Know to increase your chances for SSD application approval”
How Do You Qualify for SSD Benefits?
To be eligible for SSD benefits, you must meet the SSA’s work and medical requirements. Let’s look quickly at each one:
- Work requirement– You must have paid into the program through the taxes deducted from your earnings. Generally, this means that you must have earned:
o At least 40 work credits.
o With 20 of those credits earned in the 10 years before your disability arose.
However, if you are a younger person, you may qualify with fewer work credits.
- Medical requirement– You must meet the SSA’s definition of “disabled.” This means that you suffer from a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that:
o Prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful activity and
o Has lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 consecutive months or to result in death.
In Michigan, your medical eligibility will be determined by a Disability Determination Services (DDS) examiner in Detroit, Lansing, Traverse City or Kalamazoo.
How Do You Apply for SSD Benefits in Michigan?
- You must prepare your application and submit it in one of three ways:
- Use the SSA’s online application form.
- Call the SSA at (800) 772-1213 or (800) 325-0778 (TTY) and mail in your documentation.
- Go in person to your local SSA field office in Michigan.
What Happens If Your Application for Benefits Is Denied?
Many people experience the frustration of seeing their application for SSD benefits denied. If you find yourself in this situation, you can request a hearing at your nearest Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) in Michigan.
The good news: You have a 49.14 percent chance of getting your application approved at the hearing level in Michigan.
The bad news: In Michigan, on average, it takes 516 days to process your case. The processing time includes waiting, on average, 17.2 months for your hearing.
Consider this chart, which shows information for Michigan’s seven ODAR offices for the 2016 fiscal year:
You can file an appeal with the Appeals Council if your application is denied after a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge. If you are denied again, you can file a lawsuit in the nearest U.S. District Court.
What Can You Do to Help Your Application Get Approved?
If you believe that you qualify for SSD benefits, you should stay determined and keep fighting. However, each stage of an appeal can add significantly more time to your case.
This is why you should do as much as possible to get your application approved at the initial stage. Here are five ways to improve your chances
1. Establish That Your Income Does Not Exceed The SGA Threshold.
To be considered “disabled,” you cannot earn monthly income above the “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) threshold. The SSA adjusts this threshold every year. In 2017, it is:
- $1,170per month for non-blind individuals
- $1,950per month for blind individuals.
When you apply for benefits, provide accurate and up-to-date information about your income. To support your claim, you should provide documentation such as pay stubs and W2 forms.
2. Provide Complete And Relevant Medical Information.
Your application must establish that you suffer from a qualifying disability. For this reason, you need to provide complete and relevant medical information.
You must provide medical records from an accepted medical source such as your treating doctor. These records could include:
- X-ray, MRI or CT scan results
- Blood and other test results
- Treatment plans
- Prescription information.
These records need to establish the onset date of your disability. They should also show the nature and severity of your condition. Ultimately, these records should demonstrate how your condition limits your ability to work.
Finally, provide the names and contact information for your regular doctor or any other physician who has diagnosed and treated your condition.
All of this information will be helpful to the DDS examiner who reviews your application.
3. Ask Your Doctor To Provide A Written Statement.
The SSA gives significant weight to the opinion of your treating physician. It will help your application if you ask your doctor to provide DDS with his or her assessment of your “residual functional capacity” (RFC).
Your doctor can describe your symptoms. The doctor can also discuss the likely course of your condition as you receive treatment . Most importantly, the doctor can give his or her professional view on whether you can meet the physical, mental, sensory, and other requirements of working.
4. Cooperate With The DDS Examiner.
Your goal should be to give the DDS examiner who reviews your case as much information as the examiner needs to make a decision on your claim.
However, in some cases, an examiner may want more medical evidence and ask you to undergo a consultative examination. This is a physical or mental examination by an independent doctor. The SSA will pay for this examination.
You should comply with this request in order to keep the review of your application moving forward.
5. Stay On Top Of The Review.
If you do not get a response after a long period of time, it may be a good idea to check on whether the DDS examiner needs any additional information. Additionally, you should make sure that you have provided your current contact information.
Applying for SSD Benefits in Michigan? We Can Help
If you are considering whether to apply for SSD benefits, or if you have already started the process and need help, contact us for a free case review. We serve clients throughout the state of Michigan. We can guide you through the process of applying for benefits and fight for you on appeal if your claim is denied.